Opinion

A Still Small Voice

Family members cross off bucket-list items

Submitted photo by Kendra Ashendorf

Southeast Iowa Union reporter Vicki Tillis, center, along with her daughter Kendra Ashendorf, front, and her parents, Harry and Marie Clark, back, visit Niagara Falls to cross that goal off their bucket list.
Submitted photo by Kendra Ashendorf Southeast Iowa Union reporter Vicki Tillis, center, along with her daughter Kendra Ashendorf, front, and her parents, Harry and Marie Clark, back, visit Niagara Falls to cross that goal off their bucket list.

Last summer, I was able to cross off an item on my places-I-want-to-see list: Niagara Falls.

Every time I have gone to visit my daughter Kendra and her husband Justin in Maryland in the past few years, I’d joked that I want to see Niagara Falls. The first time I flew in and out of an airport in Washington, D.C., and I told everyone I wanted to look out the window and see Niagara Falls. I told people that I even asked the pilot to jog a bit north and for the flight attendants to be sure to point the Falls out to me so I didn’t miss them, but of course I never really asked the pilot to go off course and I never saw Niagara Falls.

The second time, I went to Maryland, we drove out for Kendra and Justin’s wedding. It was a quick trip, and we didn’t have time for a side trip to Niagara Falls, and besides who knew what the weather and the roads would be like the first week of February!

My mom and dad had been wanting to visit Kendra and Justin, so the three of us decided to drive out in June last year.

I designed an itinerary with something for all of us to enjoy. My mom has always wanted to see a big southern plantation, so we visited the Hampton National Historic Site, just down the road from Kendra’s home in Towson.

A tour of the mansion and its grounds is free! The mansion, once owned by the Ridgely family, was the largest private home in America by 1790. To give you an idea of just how big it is: the plantation mansions owned by George Washington and Andrew Jackson would fit inside the Hampton mansion — our guide said so. The mansion is full of wonderful family treasures collected by the different generations.

The plantation overseer’s house and slave quarters are down the hill and across the road from the mansion. I was impressed with the creamery. The building is constructed into a hill, and water from an underwater stream flows into the creamery and along the floor at the walls. The water troughs are deep enough so that crocks of butter and other dairy products could be set down in them to be kept cool. Ingenious!

My mom also always has wanted to see a panda, so I put a visit to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park on our itinerary. But we didn’t make it there. A foggy morning delayed our trip to Washington, D.C., plus the Washington Capitals hockey team had just won the Stanley Cup and everyone and their dog was trying to get into D.C. for the victory parade. So with a late start and a desire to avoid the parade, we trimmed our D.C. visit to a stop at Arlington Cemetery.

Arlington Cemetery was on the itinerary for me. I wanted to visit the Women in Military Service for America memorial. I am a charter member of the memorial, and if you search for my name in the facility’s computers, you can see my photo and read a bit about my eight years in the U.S. Army. The memorial has lots of information and artifacts about women in the military. It wasn’t crowded, like other monuments, memorials and gravesites at the cemetery … and it was air-conditioned!

My dad wanted to see … Niagara Falls. What??!! That was on my list! And, wouldn’t you know it … Kendra wanted to see Niagara Falls, too! No way could it not be included on our itinerary, and Kendra decided to ride home with us, on a more northern route that took us to Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls was … Powerful!

That was the only word I could think of at my first look at the Niagara River and the falls.

We didn’t do any of the tourist activities — the boat ride, the observation tower or anything else. We just walked and looked at the falls and took pictures. My fingers are in almost all of the ones I took because it was so windy, I was afraid I was going to lose my phone! Is it always that windy at Niagara Falls? I don’t know, but we left the park just before a big storm blew in.

Crossing those bucket-list items off our lists was something we all enjoyed doing, but we were all happy to get home to our own beds!